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SCOTUS and So-Called "Same-Sex Marriage"

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We’ve all probably grown a bit tired of hearing about the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding so-called same-sex marriage. But the issue isn’t going away, and Christians need to be informed and prepared for the days ahead. In this article I want to focus on only two questions. Continue reading . . .

We’ve all probably grown a bit tired of hearing about the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding so-called same-sex marriage. But the issue isn’t going away, and Christians need to be informed and prepared for the days ahead. In this article I want to focus on only two questions.

First, what did the Court rule?

This question can be answered very shortly and simply. The Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and that all states are also required to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed out of state. Justice Kennedy, in his opinion for the majority, wrote: “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”

What is remarkably missing from this statement is any attempt to define what he means by the word “marry” or “marriage”. What is “marriage”? Where did the majority on the Court derive their definition? By what moral authority did they arrive at their understanding of what is typically called “marriage”? It is quite clear, as Justices Roberts and Scalia both noted in their dissenting opinion, that the majority on the Court simply redefined the word “marriage” in direct opposition to how it has been understood in cultures and societies for thousands of years. The basis on which they did this will become evident soon.

99.8% of human cultures have considered male-female complementarity to be of the essence of marriage, and even in our culture almost everyone understood marriage this way, until the last 5-10 years, including President Obama. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it, this view of marriage has “formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”

So, marriage as the covenant union between one man and one woman that every virtually society has historically recognized is cast aside in the space of a decade and the fundamental values on which it is based are turned upside down and inside out.

What we must keep in mind is that the state did not create marriage or the family. God did. The state cannot define or redefine marriage and the family. Its definition comes from Scripture. Scripture is unequivocal that a marriage only exists where one man and one woman enter into a covenant with each other.

Second, what will likely be the immediate and long-term consequences of the SCOTUS decision?

For one thing, Colleges, Universities, and other institutions that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality will likely run the risk of closure. For them to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages and for them to withhold access to married housing of so-called same-sex couples, just to cite one example, will put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy. Not long ago the government revoked the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because it prohibited inter-racial dating and inter-racial marriage. And rightly so. Bob Jones University accepted the consequences but eventually changed its policy in 2000. And no, there is no parallel whatsoever between issues of race and sexuality. But what the government did to Bob Jones with regard to race it will do to other institutions with regard to homosexuality.

Examples of this have already occurred. The most recent instance involved Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts school near Boston, Massachusetts. Gordon College faced the possibility of losing its official accreditation after the New England Associations of Schools and Colleges asked it to review how its policies affect gay students. The school has decided to maintain its position on sexuality, which prohibits student or faculty sex outside of heterosexual marriage. The results are yet to be known.

As for Bible-believing evangelical churches, there may come a time when all will be told they must perform so-called same-sex marriages and admit practicing homosexual persons into full membership or lose their tax-exempt status when it comes to property taxes. A time is likely coming when your contributions to your church will no longer be legitimate deductions on your income tax return because your pastor refuses to perform same-sex marriages or refuses to allow outsiders to perform such so-called “marriages” in your facilities. So be it. Surely you don’t think evangelical pastors hold to their beliefs because it’s easy and that they would quickly give them up if it became financially costly?

Has our culture taken a decisive shift away from biblical standards of truth and morality? Of course it has. But that’s nothing new. That has been happening ever since Adam and Eve made their disastrous decision in the Garden of Eden. [Note: Twenty years ago only 27% of Americans supported so-called same-sex marriage. Today approximately 60% do.]

What’s new in this recent development is what John Piper calls “normalization and institutionalization.”

“The new thing — new for America, and new for history — is not homosexuality. That brokenness has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. (And there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act — just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting.) What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.”

Should we prepare ourselves to be ridiculed and deprived of basic human liberties that we have come to take for granted in America? Yes. That is part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. A day may come when Bridgeway Church here in OKC will be closed by force of arms, padlocked, its finances confiscated and its leadership imprisoned. Even then we will refuse to compromise our convictions or violate our conscience as governed by God’s Word. That is not the rant of an ideologue. It is the solemn promise of this pastor.

We can assuredly expect that the church will become increasingly marginalized in our society and viewed as a cultural dinosaur with little of significance to contribute to our world. But the church has always been counter-cultural. The church, when it is being the church, always has and always will be in conflict with the mainstream culture. We don’t want to look like the world or reflect its values. And that is a good thing. It helps us. It requires that we think clearly about what we believe. It also provides tremendous opportunity for witness.

Everyone has predicted in one form or another that persecution is coming to the church in America. But when it comes it will not be of the same sort as found in Iran or Indonesia or North Korea. It is doubtful that in our lifetime we will ever be beaten or beheaded here in the U.S. The persecution we encounter will more likely take the form of: (1) social ostracism; (2) lost business opportunities; (3) slander, mockery, and ridicule; (4) loss of tax exempt status for churches, contributions, schools, etc.; (5) threats to our exercise of free speech with the result being temporary imprisonment, fines, etc.

Very soon, unless it’s already happened, the most vicious accusation against Christians won’t be hypocrisy. That will be a thing of the past. The most vicious and common accusation against Christians will be hate-filled bigotry. We will no longer be accused of high-minded moral superiority but of a lowly moral inferiority. There is no escaping the fact that things are going to get much more difficult for all evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11).

Why would we ever think or expect that unregenerate people whose worldview is decidedly opposite from our own will agree with us or enjoy living according to our moral standards? There is no reason to think or expect that they will be amenable to the idea of even letting us live freely in accord with our views. The Christian faith always has been and always will be a threat to every non-Christian.

2 Comments

Good, sobering words Sam. To me, it seems like we are traveling headlong toward a 2000 year full circle, which means that the visible church will ultimately become smaller, leaner and more zealous to abide in essential truth in the face of ever greater opposition, not different in intensity (perhaps different in kind, perhaps not) from those believers living in the first century. It seems to me that we are headed toward the jungle.

Thank you, Sam , for speaking so clearly about this subject.

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